Friday, March 02, 2007


Yuyintang is a live-music joint in Shanghai. I consider it the second best place to see live music in Shanghai, behind 4Live - which I've shown pictures of a band that played there before. That's a weak compliment, as Shanghai's music scene doesn't amount to much. Still, Yuyintang remains a chill place.

One thing there's no getting past, is that it's not the easiest place to get to! First of all it's way in the far South - it was very convenient for me when I used to live out in the boonies nearby, but now that I live downtown it requires a long subway ride to get there, by the time it's done the subway has closed and it's a three dollar taxi ride back home.

More than that, the actual location is insane. The first time I tried to get there I couldn't find it and wandered around for half an hour. It's located in the back of what looks like a haunted, half-deserted apartment complex/warehouse district, and requires navigating a couple successive dark alleys, until coming across a door marked by a single red light (although usually you can hear the noise first, or see people milling outside).

Partly that's because live music and the associated noise isn't tolerated by the city government, and partly because I gotta believe the place brings in almost no money, and has to stay in a place that charges almost no rent. Yuyintang fits two hundred people tops, there's maybe four or five concerts a month, and cover charges are somewhere around three or four dollars. They also have a small cooler selling cans of soda or beer for a dollar, but it's not really a functional bar.

The insides are fun. It feels just like what it is, a dive for music. That's in comparison to some of Shanghai's other music places, which are dark with the red lights, but then have expensive drinks, or private booths and tables, or large lounges.

A surprise is the quality of the set-up. Particularly the lights, even well-set up music venues in the US often don't have the fancy array of swinging lights that change color, the way this place does. To me it's very corny, but kind of fun I guess. Something like a small-time version of a big 70's band playing an arena.

The sound system can't compete with the strangely excellent sound systems used in some other Shanghai clubs, but it's passable, and doesn't have the overwhelming massively muddled bass that was endemic to small music clubs in San Francisco.

As for the bands? Of course different bands are at different levels, but generally I find Shanghai bands to be competent but unoriginal, playing a generic classic-rock or punk sound - it was definitely true for the local opening band, Plastic Chocolate. Sometimes there's small bands visiting from other countries, which always surprises me, given the small amounts of money involved. This musician was from Japan, I wasn't so into it though.

Update 8/21/07 - This location was closed for a BS reason, and Yuyintang now hosts concerts at Dream Factory in New Factories, and operates at a private house on Yan'an Lu.


MF said...

Did you find them friendly? I've gone there twice, and got sort of a "Get outta here, laowai" vibe from them. They were sort of cold. Or maybe I'm just too nerdy for Shanghai's music scene. Anyhow, it made me not so eager to go back.

Jeff Rutsch said...

Interesting, but I don't feel that vibe from the staff, and especially not from other people there. Was there anything specific?

Yuyintang isn't really a foreigner oriented spot (although there's always at least a group of them) and generally the workers don't speak English, while most other music and nightlife spots are foreigner-oriented, with staff that do speak English. So that may be the reason for the coldness - but I don't view that as anything hostile, just a difficulty in communication.